The Detroit Red Wings had as tough as challenge as there is coming out of their break, facing the high-powered Edmonton Oilers.
The western Canadian team, home to superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl, are trying to secure playoff positioning; the Wings are trying to rise into a spot. The Wings built an early lead and kept Tuesday’s outing at Little Caesars Arena competitive, but a late flurry of special teams activity and an empty net goal left them with a 5-2 loss.
Three straight Oilers goals in the second period toppled the lead Tyler Bertuzzi provided in the first period, but the Wings were able to steal some momentum back during a penalty kill. Pius Suter did an outstanding job shadowing McDavid, helping to create a sequence that ended with Joe Veleno scoring just as Michael Rasmussen had come out of the penalty box.
Bertuzzi was part of a melee in the third period that erupted after Moritz Seider retaliated against Evander Kane for a hit, turning around and tripping the Oilers’ forward. The result was a third penalty for the Wings, with Seider, Bertuzzi and Kane in their respective boxes.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins converted during Rasmussen’s second penalty, putting the Oilers up by a pair with 4:22 to play. The Wings (21-20-8) went on their fifth power play with 3:47 to play, and pulled Ville Husso to have a two-skater advantage; Kane took advantage to score into the empty net.
That’s more like it
Midway through the first period, Bertuzzi showed why the Wings are in a tough situation regarding his future. It was only his second goal of the season – and his 18th game, as two hand surgeries and a lower-body injury have waylaid his availability. But it was such a slick goal: Bertuzzi driving up the right flank to the net, timing it just right to take a pass from linemate Lucas Raymond and pop the puck behind Jack Campbell. Bertuzzi has a nose for the net and a ton of grit, and his status as a pending unrestricted free agent is only going to become more and more of a distraction as the March 3 trade deadline nears. His injuries have made it more difficult to determine what would be a fair extension – and that makes it likely he could be continuing his career elsewhere.
Two posts and a breathtaking miss
Seider and Jonatan Berggren both hit goalposts during the Wings’ power play late in the first period, with Seider wiring a shot from the high slot and Berggren coming up just short a minute later. But the biggest near-miss of the first period belonged to Robby Fabbri. There were audible gasps from the stands when he got the puck down low near the midpoint. Fabbri turned and directed the puck on net; it slid slowly through the paint only to hit the left goalpost. Fabbri reached for the loose puck but the Oilers got there first.
Two and change
It took the Oilers less than a minute to move ahead, early in the second period. Ryan McLeod scored at 3:02, finishing a setup from Philip Broberg, who had grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated it into Detroit’s zone. Warren Foegele scored off an odd-man rush 36 seconds later to take some of the momentum out of the Wings’ game. Foegele earned his second goal of the game at 11:55 of the second period when he redirected Vincent Dehsarnais’ shot from the blue line, making it 3-1.
Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.
Next up: Flames
Matchup: Red Wings (21-20-8) vs. Calgary (24-17-10).
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday; Little Caesars Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).